NATURALIST David Bellamy led the celebrations at a nature reserve where access to the wildlife haven and surrounding countryside has been improved.

In the summer, volunteers worked on access at the Tow Law entrance of Durham Wildlife Trust’s Hedleyhope Fell reserve, in County Durham.

The main feature is the Hedleyhope Fell Boardwalk which author, television presenter and Trust patron Mr Bellamy declared open last week. He was joined at Thursday’s ceremony by trustees, volunteers, funders and community representatives.

The project, funded by Defra, SUEZ Communities Trust, ESB West Durham Wind Farm Community Benefits Fund and the County Durham Community Foundation, includes a 60m path from Tow Law to the reserve and 150m of boardwalk made from recycled plastic bottles.

As well as improving visitor access to the nature reserve and a connection to a long-distance route linking Tow Law and Cornsay Colliery, the project benefits the myriad of wildlife that makes its home on the fell.

The popular route onto the fell was prone to becoming boggy in winter. The boardwalk will make it easier to walk on a defined route across the fell, preventing damage to valuable heathland habitat.

Mark Richardson, reserves manager at Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “Hedleyhope fell is one of the largest, mid-altitude heathlands remaining in County Durham, it’s important that it can be enjoyed by all and protected for future generations.”

He thanked supporters, funders and volunteers.